University of Saskatchewan researchers say the incidence of epilepsy in Indigenous people is twice that of non-Indigenous Canadians.

The study involved health records from 2001 to 2010.

Researchers combined information from three databases on patients who were either hospitalized for epilepsy or had two physician visits with an epilepsy diagnosis.

A team of epidemiologists and neurologists led by Dr. Jose Téllez-Zenteno, has established for the first time, a Canadian national incidence rate of 62 new cases of epilepsy per 100,000 people per year.

For self-identified First Nations patients, the rate is 122 per 100,000.

“We don’t have the exact reason for the difference in rate,” Téllez-Zenteno said. “Some other studies have shown higher rates of traumatic brain injury in Indigenous populations. Head trauma is correlated with epilepsy, so we think that is one of the factors.”

Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of brain activity can lead to seizures, he said.

Researchers believe inequalities including socioeconomic circumstances and education may pose differences in epilepsy risk.

Over the period of the study, the overall incidence of epilepsy in Canada had actually declined.

(PHOTO: Dr. Henandez-Ronquillo and Dr. Tellez-Zenteno. Photo courtesy of U of S.)